Friday, March 02, 2012

Putting Iran's Elections Into Context

Iran's carrying out elections and the results wont really shed all that much light on who wields power in the country. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei basically picks and chooses who runs through the Guardian Council. There are hardliner factions, including those who have backed Khamenei's previous chosen one - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who is term-limited and can't run for a third term as President).

The election basically pits what media outlets refer to as Ahmadinejad's faction versus Khamenei's faction.
Iran's supreme leader urged Iranians to vote in large numbers as the country held parliamentary elections Friday, saying a high turnout would send a strong message to the enemies of the nation in the nuclear standoff with the West.

The balloting for the 290-member parliament is the first major voting since the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009 and the mass protests and crackdowns that followed.

It is unlikely to change Iran's course over major policies — including its controversial nuclear program — regardless of who wins, but it may shape the political landscape for a successor to Ahmadinejad in 2013.
That's not really accurate.

While Ahmadinejad has tried to expand his power, Khamenei slapped him down. There was an incident where Ahmadinejad attempted to sack a minister, but Khamenei restored the minister to that post within days. That's a reminder of where power really lies in the country and should be a message that media outlets really take away from the kabuki play of elections.

Iran's mullahs get to pick and choose who runs for office, and they do so with the blessing of the Supreme Leader. If the mullahs don't like the candidate - they don't even get on the ballot.

Opposition leaders, including Mirhussein Mousavi, are under house arrest. Mousavi had run against Ahmadinejad in the disputed elections and lost. Massive protests erupted across Iran and it was violently suppressed, leaving the opposition groups under arrest and the watchful gaze of the Iranian security forces loyal to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

Taken as a whole, the elections really don't indicate who runs the country or whether the Iranian regime is shifting policies since the power is dictated from the same person - Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Even opposition groups in Iran recognize this - that the statements coming from Khamenei about voting in the election as a poke in the eye of the West (US) is just propaganda to prop up canddiates that have been selected to run by the same cabal that has run the country since the 1979 revolution. It's not change - it's rearranging deck chairs.

Iran's economic situation remains dire and Khamenei is using all manner of tactics to ensure that his power is preserved. At the same time, Iran's political and religious leaders are invoking the crisis with the West over Iran's nuclear program as a way to get out the vote, even though most Iranians are far more concerned over their economic situation.


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